Beware the Anger Germ Totem!

 

CGP Grey has a thought provoking video about the vectors of viral ideas, which he calls “thought germs”:

In the second half he discusses how ideas that make us angry are the best suited to reproduce and stick with us the longest. This works optimally when there are two diametrically opposed “anger germs” which act in a kind of symbiosis to perpetuate each other. In the best case scenario for the germs, the two factions spend more time arguing with each other about the other side than arguing with the other side, thereby producing an even more powerful set of enraging ideas.

So… since that seems to potentially describe a certain place I’m thinking of that prides itself on its intelligence and rationality, I thought it appropriate to post here.

There are 21 comments.

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  1. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Ugh. It’s just like you to post something like that. ;)

    That was a really solid video. At first, I was like “okay, this is just a new way of describing a meme,” but I really like the extended metaphor. The comparison of emotions to weak points is a really good one.

    • #1
  2. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Ugh. It’s just like you to post something like that. ;)

    That was a really solid video. At first, I was like “okay, this is just a new way of describing a meme,” but I really like the extended metaphor. The comparison of emotions to weak points is a really good one.

    I actually had somewhat of a problem with that phrasing because it made it sound like emotions might not be useful and important things and are merely a weak point. He probably didn’t mean it that way, but I don’t like it when people assume that rationality and emotion are two separate things. The necessity of emotion to our rationality makes us vulnerable to emotional “germs,” But even wanting to be rational is emotional by definition.

    • #2
  3. user_189393 Inactive
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    Love it.

    Reminiscent to me of the entire concept of Dhyan and how it shapes our lives.  And the benefits of controlling (more like channeling) good thoughts via meditation (really, Dhyan or focus).

    • #3
  4. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Mike H:

    I actually had somewhat of a problem with that phrasing because it made it sound like emotions might not be useful and important things and are merely a weak point.

    Fair enough.

    I didn’t make that inference, but I see how someone could.

    • #4
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Great, but Totem.

    • #5
  6. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Mike H:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    That was a really solid video. At first, I was like “okay, this is just a new way of describing a meme,” but I really like the extended metaphor. The comparison of emotions to weak points is a really good one.

    I actually had somewhat of a problem with that phrasing because it made it sound like emotions might not be useful and important things and are merely a weak point.

    Similarly, germs aren’t merely a vector of illness. “Sneeze it at your friends” is very cute, though.

    • #6
  7. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Does he mention the word “meme” in the video, and/or how this idea originated with Richard Dawkins in 1976, and was further popularized in the 1990s by Douglas Rushkoff?

    My Communications Studies degree was good for at least one thing.

    • #7
  8. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Misthiocracy:Does he mention the word “meme” in the video, and/or how this idea originated with Richard Dawkins in 1976, and was further popularized in the 1990s by Douglas Rushkoff?

    My Communications Studies degree was good for at least one thing.

    He does use the word meme, several times, but I don’t think he went into any theorists.

    • #8
  9. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:Great, but Totem.

    I hate when my spelling illiteracy is so glaringly on display. I even did a quick google search and thought it passed the test.

    • #9
  10. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    A lot of what I’ve encountered on FB and social media in general could be described as giant globs of snot!  Which might be why I rarely share anything…

    But about emotion–Jonathan Haidt argues that most of what passes for reason and logic for most of us is strongly informed by emotion.  I think that is true.  Humans aren’t good at separating the two.  It sure has been amplified by hyped up communication in the internet age though.

    • #10
  11. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Merina Smith:A lot of what I’ve encountered on FB and social media in general could be described as giant globs of snot! Which might be why I rarely share anything…

    But about emotion–Jonathan Haidt argues that most of what passes for reason and logic for most of us is strongly informed by emotion. I think that is true. Humans aren’t good at separating the two. It sure has been amplified by hyped up communication in the internet age though.

    I think of emotion as a highly-fallible form of real information. Without emotion, we have no motivation. Our emotion is highly intertwined with our intuition, which is a vital source of useful information.

    • #11
  12. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Merina Smith:A lot of what I’ve encountered on FB and social media in general could be described as giant globs of snot!

    Yabbut, the only reason you think of them as giant globs of snot is because you’ve already been infected by the thought germs which tell you that competing thought germs are giant balls of thought, but then if you try to innoculate yourself from the thought germs which prevent you from seeing competing ideas as giant globs of snot that simply means that you’re opening yourself up to being infected by other thought germs, but then…

    See how quickly the metaphor breaks down?

    • #12
  13. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Mike H:

    Merina Smith:A lot of what I’ve encountered on FB and social media in general could be described as giant globs of snot! Which might be why I rarely share anything…

    But about emotion–Jonathan Haidt argues that most of what passes for reason and logic for most of us is strongly informed by emotion. I think that is true. Humans aren’t good at separating the two. It sure has been amplified by hyped up communication in the internet age though.

    I think of emotion as a highly-fallible form of real information. Without emotion, we have no motivation, and our emotion is highly intertwined with our intuition, which is a vital source of helpful information.

    Yes–I agree.  Haidt makes that point too.  People who are more analytical will examine their emotion/intuition vortex, but it’s hard to separate it all out, that’s for sure.  Nor do we necessarily want to, but nevertheless, our current highly charged national state of affairs does make a person long for something like the Federalist Papers–intense and well-thought out reasoning with only a little emotion and lots of intution.

    • #13
  14. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Misthiocracy:

    Merina Smith:A lot of what I’ve encountered on FB and social media in general could be described as giant globs of snot!

    Yabbut, the only reason you think of them as giant globs of snot is because you’ve already been infected by the thought germs which tell you that competing thought germs are giant balls of thought, but then if you try to innoculate yourself from the thought germs which prevent you from seeing competing ideas as giant globs of snot that simply means that you’re opening yourself up to being infected by other thought germs, but then…

    See how quickly the metaphor breaks down?

    It’s turtles all the way down.

    • #14
  15. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Just an aside: I love how the fiery red still frame just begs you to click on the video.

    • #15
  16. user_189393 Inactive
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    Emotions are a feedback mechanism of your values and judgment.  Merina responds negatively to Facebook posts because she has made certain judgement about the posts on Facebook.

    Emotions, especially strong ones, give you an opportunity to check your values and judgment, and give you an opportunity to use more effective judgement if necessary.

    Many a right wingers are self proclaimed lefties of yester years,  If  everyone on the right categorically rejected all communication with them in the past, their conversion to the right may have taken longer.

    Frank, on the other hand, chooses to keep “getting annoyed” (surprise, that, Frank annoyed).  He is clear on his values and has no snap judgments on the person – who has snap judgement on him and the entire state on Indiana.  The annoyance is justified, but clarity and integrity in presenting one’s own value systems yield better communication, and ultimately “satisfaction”.

    • #16
  17. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    I never post this sort of thing on my face book feed, but I posted this because I think it is so relevant to current issues.  I’ll let you know if anyone responds.

    • #17
  18. user_75648 Thatcher
    user_75648
    @JohnHendrix

    Mike H:I think of emotion as a highly-fallible form of real information. Without emotion, we have no motivation, and our emotion is highly intertwined with our intuition, which is a vital source of helpful information.

    In addition to your point, Mike H, I think emotions are the brain’s way of telling itself which experiences are important to remember.

    Q: Where were you and and what were you doing May 12 10 years ago at this time of the day?

    Q: Where were you and what were you doing when you learned about 9/11?

    Why aren’t we able to answer the first question but not the second? I think part of the reason is because of the emotions triggered by the 9/11 news and–most likely–you experienced nothing consequential on May 12 a decade ago.

    If, however,  you do recall something from that date then I fully expect this is due to some emotion-triggering event happened to you (e.g., a death in the family, some embarrassment you endured, etc.) Without such an event you’re unlikely to have a reason to have any particular memories of that date.

    I conclude that this means the ability of a meme to cause emotion is critical to it lingering longer in memories.

    • #18
  19. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    John Hendrix:

    Mike H:I think of emotion as a highly-fallible form of real information. Without emotion, we have no motivation, and our emotion is highly intertwined with our intuition, which is a vital source of helpful information.

    In addition to your point, Mike H, I think emotions are the brain’s way of telling itself which experiences are important to remember.

    Q: Where were you and and what were you doing May 12 10 years ago at this time of the day?

    Q: Where were you and what were you doing when you learned about 9/11?

    Why aren’t we able to answer the first question but not the second? I think part of the reason is because of the emotions triggered by the 9/11 news and–most likely–you experienced nothing consequential on May 12 a decade ago.

    If, however, you do recall something from that date then I fully expect this is due to some emotion-triggering event happened to you (e.g., a death in the family, some embarrassment you endured, etc.) Without such an event you’re unlikely to have a reason to have any particular memories of that date.

    I conclude that this means the ability of a meme to cause emotion is critical to it lingering longer in memories.

    Yep, I remember them talking a lot about this in Serial.

    • #19
  20. Artemis Fawkes Member
    Artemis Fawkes
    @SecondBite

    I don’t think this is an original thought, but emotion supplies weight to factual data:  there are things that are true, but unimportant, and others that are true, but important.  Emotion helps us sort things out.

    On another note, I really liked the video.  The interesting thing is that I think I am more susceptible than my kids are.  They are 18 to 34 in age and seem to have better immunity than I do.  I am tempted to send them the link, but what would the point be?  My wife, though, she might be vulnerable.

    • #20
  21. Artemis Fawkes Member
    Artemis Fawkes
    @SecondBite

    Is this an intellectual corollary of Gresham’s law?  Useless thoughts drive out useful thoughts.

    • #21

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